(Article adapted from the MCVA web site. Photo above: Autumn in the Marsh, September 2013 / photo by Glen Gower.)
The Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) is getting set to extend regulation and protection of wetlands within their watershed, part of which includes Stittsville.
The MVCA is working towards regulating and protecting wetlands in the watershed that meet various criteria, as mandated by the provincial government in 2006.
To date, MVCA has applied provincially mandated regulations to provincially significant wetlands (PSW) only. This is being extended to other wetlands that are not provincially significant.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry recently posted Wetland Conservation in Ontario: A Discussion Paper, and this interactive map shows which areas are impacted.
Public open houses will take place in the fall of 2015. The first open house will take place on Wednesday, September 23 from 4-8pm at MVCA Head Office, located at 10970 Highway 7, Carleton Place. An annual review of wetland inquires/permits will be completed and a report sent to the Board of Directors.
WHAT IS A WETLAND?
Wetland means land that…
(a) is seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water or has a water table close to or at its surface;
(b) directly contributes to the hydrological function of a watershed through connection with a surface watercourse;
(c) has hydric soils, the formation of which has been caused by the presence of abundant water; and
(d) has vegetation dominated by hydrophytic plants or water tolerant plants, the dominance of which has been favoured by the presence of abundant water, but does not include periodically soaked or wet land that is used for agricultural purposes and no longer exhibits a wetland characteristic.
In 2006, regulations allowing the Conservation Authority to regulate wetlands were approved by the province. Each Conservation Authority’s regulation is based on provincial guidelines.
MVCA regulations were applied to wetlands in the watershed that were only provincially significant (PSWs) due to cost, mapping issues and limited staff resources.
An annual report by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (2006-2007), states: “It was expected that CAs would regulate and protect all wetlands, not just those that are identified as provincially significant. It appears that other CAs are not applying the regulation to many wetlands, either because of a lack of resources or a lack of political will. For example, the Eastern Ontario CAs have “made a policy decision that only wetlands designated as provincially significant and appearing on approved Official Plan schedules are subject to the regulation.” This was reiterated in 2009-2010.
In 2012, MVCA staff made a presentation to the Board of Directors to highlight the importance of wetlands for flood attenuation, filtration and storage. A work plan was developed to determine what wetlands are important within the watershed.
After highlighting to the Board in 2013 which wetlands were under pressure and the most important, MVCA staff was directed to engage and consult with local ecologists, Algonquin College, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, other Conservation Authorities and municipal staff to identify important wetlands. After exploring several sets of criteria to assess importance, a minimum size of 0.5 ha and surface connectivity were determined to be the most important criteria. These criteria have been used to create the draft mapping.
Under Section 2 (1) of Ontario Regulation 153/06, “Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority: Regulation of Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses, development is prohibited within:
(c) wetlands; or
(d) other areas where development could interfere with the hydrologic function of a wetland, including areas within 120 metres of all provincially significant wetlands and areas within 30 metres of other wetlands. O. Reg. 153/06.”
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. What if I want to alter a wetland?
A. First, contact MVCA to discuss your proposal. MVCA will assess opportunities to mitigate impacts to the function of the wetland and recommend best management practices. For major work, compensation measures may be required to offset the impacts. MVCA will work with the landowner to arrive at a solution.
Q. What sort of activities requires approval within the wetlands and adjacent lands?
A. You can continue to enjoy the activities you currently participate in. Unauthorized construction or alteration of wetlands can result in increased upstream or downstream flooding, reduced water quality, destruction of fish and wildlife habitat or other environmental problems. Therefore, the proposed policies will require approval for certain activities within wetlands and adjacent lands. These activities include:
• construction, reconstruction or placing a building or structure of any kind
• any change to a building or structure that changes its use
• grading of the site
• temporary or permanent placing, dumping or removal of material
• use of heavy machinery in and around the wetland
Q. What criteria was used to determine what additional wetlands would be regulated?
- Size of Wetland – Wetlands smaller than 0.5 ha (1.2 acres) were excluded
- Hydraulic connectivity (ie. connected to a waterbody/watercourse)
Q. Why are you making these changes now?
A. The province requires us to regulate and protect all wetlands, not just those identified as provincially significant. The MVCA has been phasing in this approach.
Q. When will the public have its say?
A. MVCA will be hosting public open houses beginning in the fall. Check here for a list of dates and locations.
Q. What is the timeline from approval to implementation?
A. The changes will take effect in 2016.
Q. What happens if my property is an identified wetland and I want to do work on it?
A. MVCA staff will conduct a field visit and provide guidance on how to proceed. The maps are used as a guide only. Wetlands and the criteria will be assessed by MVCA staff.
Q. How many applications have been received for work with Provincially Significant Wetlands?
A. We currently regulate 400 square kilometres of wetlands. We have received approximately 12 applications per year. That number is expected to double.
For further details contact Shannon Gutoskie, MVCA’s Community Relations Coordinator, at 613-253-0006 ext 225.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We also asked the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority about their regulation of wetlands. Here’s a response from Glen McDonald, Director of Planning:
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority currently regulates all Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs) and all lands within 120 metres of PSWs in the Rideau Valley watershed. We also regulate non-PSWs that have been identified as locally significant within municipal official plans. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has over the last few years provided municipalities, that are in the process of updating their official plans, with an updated PSW mapping layer for wetlands within the RVCA watershed. In response to this updated mapping, we have initiated a process to update our regulatory mapping accordingly. There will be a public consultation process (public open houses) as part of this initiative.
Although Section28 of the Conservation Authorities Act and Ontario Regulation 174/06 (Rideau Valley Conservation Authority: Regulation of Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses) enable the Conservation Authority to regulate all wetlands, a decision was made by the Board of Directors in 2006 to take a phased approach to the implementation of the regulation due to limitations of the available mapping, staff resources and the cost of administering the program. This phased approach focused on priority updates and expansion of existing regulatory mapping for various watercourses and lakes.
Recognizing that it is the Province’s intent that all wetlands be subject to the regulation, in late 2015 or early 2016 Conservation Authority staff will prepare a report to the Board of Directors to identify options, one of which is to move forward with the next phase of implementation (i.e. regulate all wetlands).